The Dead Sea Squirrels
This is a great name for a band. Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for it. The credit belongs to a rather large group of students at the middle school where I teach. There was a lot of confusion the other day when several classrooms went on a walking field trip to see a display of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Apparently, many of those students thought they were going to see the Dead Sea “Squirrels” and yes, they were a bit disappointed.
I have always found middle schoolers to be quite entertaining and I certainly got a chuckle out of this situation. As funny as it was, it also hurt. Had these students never heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls? I wince to think that I am an educator and I am part of a system that has become more about test prep and less about cultural literacy. Cultural literacy leads us to be active members of our world. Culturally literate people have a sense of purpose, passion, and joy. When we bypass their need for cultural experience, we contribute to a dull future.
Am I saying that all my students are culturally illiterate? Of course, not. But too many of them live very limited lives. They don’t enjoy good stories. They don’t go to concerts, art galleries, or see plays. They don’t participate in religious activities. They’ve never been to the beach, the mountains, or just about anywhere outside of Azusa. Their games don’t involve much in the way of wordplay, or intellectual exchange. They don’t create. They don’t imagine possibilities.
Some people say that cultural literacy is really the parents’ responsibility. I can understand why they might think that. I know in my own experience, my parents were my best teachers, but that doesn’t mean that school shouldn’t do all it can as well. I know we have to take the test score situation seriously, but doesn’t it make sense that fascinated, purposeful, broadminded, and focused students might score better? Maybe we’d have a few more of those if we acted on our value of cultural experience.
Even though a few field trip students were disappointed about not seeing dead squirrels that had once lived in the sea, I’m sure they went home enlightened (and embarrassed) when they learned the significance of this ancient document. Words on a page – pretty cool.